If you had to lay down some basic rules of the road for demos…. Could you do it? Would you come up with a tight, functional system where everyone adopts the script, has the collateral they need, and everything gets updated in line with new product releases?
Last week, I wrote about my favorite AE/SE pair - Devin and Julian. I told a story about one of the best working relationships I’ve seen for AEs and SEs. The post inspired some of you to reach out and share your stories. My question was on the working relationship between your sales people and your sales engineers. Here are some of my favorite quotes!
Quotes From the Field
Here’s what you shared.
My first quote came from the product leader at a company that is in half our stacks right now. He shared,
“We sell to sales, so our sales reps give great demos that really resonate from a 'day in the life' perspective. But once we started moving upmarket, it became clear that we also needed SEs on calls.”
Nobody owns your demo.
Sure, you have a demo. And someone built it. Maybe someone even scripted a talk track or built a PowerPoint deck too. I mean, your demo exists… but does anyone actually own it?
Lack of ownership in your demo leads to inconsistent talk tracks and a bad buyer experience, which of course leads to lower win rates and lost revenue. It also makes for misaligned expectations with your prospects, with repercussions that extend well beyond lost deals. Specifically: churn and brand damage.
What’s broken? Well, everyone I’ve met assumes that someone else is on it, so in the end, nobody owns it.
As a friend of mine in Product Marketing put it:
“Nobody wants to own the demo. It’s thankless!”
But just because it's a complicated, shared responsibility does not mean that leaving it up in the air is acceptable. The largest and most mature enterprise companies assign true ownership of their demo, and the time is long overdue for small and mid-sized companies to get the memo.
In gearing up for our launch, we conducted more than 200 product-market-fit interviews. We circled back with the best conversations and organized small, group discussions. We called these the Reprise Roundtables.
It has become an ongoing event - every month, we invite the most 'in touch' experts we've met to double down on the discussion and help us sort this space out.
In one of our marketing-focused roundtables, I watched a really interesting conversation take place. Kyle Lacy, CMO at Lessonly and Wes Bush, Founder and Principal at the Product Led Institute (check the footer for links to all of their books) had an exchange that I just had to share.
Positive AE/SE Relationships
At Reprise, we’re creating software to help SaaS companies build and deliver the perfect demo. For that reason, it’s important for me to really, truly understand how demos work.
A good starting point is: Who does the demo?
Is there an easy process that companies use when deciding who will give their demo? Is it the AE or the SE? Both? How about the AE on the first call then the SE going deeper on the second? Is it like good cop/ bad cop?
Who decides? And how do they decide? Honestly, it feels like a decision you never really “make,” but rather just settle into overtime. It reminds me of the AE/BDR relationship. Yes, there are qualification and conversion rules, but these humans are sorting the rest out live while bumping into each other in the trenches. So, while your poor AEs and SEs are also ‘figuring it out’ - here’s what good looks like.
There’s a problem in SaaS sales right now. We’ve talked about it before - your buyers want a demo right away, on the first call, and you aren’t giving it to them.
But that’s not because you want to turn your process into a fist fight. You do have good reasons for pushing that discovery call before you get to the demo the buyer wants.
As a happy middle ground, sales teams are adopting a hybrid discovery/demo approach to the first call. Or, they’re offering a ‘business value’ demo on the first call (an overview), in exchange for discovery and then a full demo on the next call. Another approach we’re seeing is to demo “case studies” or "a day in the life" use cases of your product to test which value prop resonates with your prospect. It’s hard though...
How do you know “which pitch” to give if you haven’t done discovery??!
I'm dying for a freemium model. I want it so bad. The seemingly overnight success at companies like Slack are too tempting to ignore. I don't think I'm in the minority in saying this; I think we all wish we could win our market this way.
- The acquisition costs are lower, as it requires fewer sellers
- Buying is more enjoyable, which leads to higher NPS
- As a result, the expansions and renewals come easier
A friend of mine that is currently crushing with a freemium model explained it to me: “We use the free trial for two things -- lead gen of c
ourse, but also it proves if there is 'skin in the game' from the prospect. Before we allocate real resources to a deal, we can simply ask if they've gotten started on our freemium account or not."
It's a beautiful model. So, why am I staring down an 0-2 count on my previous attempts to create a product-led sales motion?
Personal experiences with this
I've been in sales for twenty years; across five orgs, three industries, under six different sales vp/cro types. I've been trained on five methodologies. I flew in a seven seater puddlejumper to spend a week in Marshall, Minnesota at a sales training boot camp put on by USBancorp. Another week in Louisville for a Sandler all-in. I've had John Barrows, Winning By Design, Force Management, and Sandler all in my building. (and I signed the invoices.) Nevermind the one day seminars, the speaking sessions at field events, and the deluge of selfie-thought leadership I get hit with on linkedin.
I have been trained in sales. I have gotten sales training. A lot.
One constant, universally agreed upon principle in sales, across all variables, is that you don't demo on the first call. (just ask anyone.)
"Discovery, and then demo."
"Don't show up and throw up."
"Don't spill your candy in the lobby."
Regardless of where you got your sales training, you've probably had it drilled home that you should not be doing a demo on the first call.
So, why do your prospects keep freaking asking?!
How did I collect this information?
Before launching Reprise I conducted 200 'product-market fit' interviews. I went outbound to my extended network on LinkedIn and asked for your time. I did brief introductory calls where we started with a demo and 'problem statement' -
"Your CTO won't build your demo environment and you can't build it yourself."
I asked you to help me understand your current state and how you arrived there. My goal was to understand how a typical SaaS company’s demo matured over time, as they grow and scale.
On these calls, the kindness and genuine interest from the market enabled me to really dig deep on the current state, before we would try to advise on the future state. This blog is a cheeky look at the current state of demo environments -- what do we demo, who builds it, and the various points at which we upgrade our demo.
Take a look. Does this resonate with you?
Ben Kennedy, senior sales engineer at Branch.io, believes you are using your software trial incorrectly in your sales motion.